How can the course be set for a social and environmental digital transformation in Berlin?

The megatrend of digitalization is changing the economy, society and politics and ultimately the entire planet. Despite long-standing knowledge about these transformative forces, the social and environmental impacts and mutual dependencies of new technologies and their political, economic and social implications have only been studied for just a few years.

What is striking is that very positive expectations on the one hand stand in contrast to negative to apocalyptic fears on the other. Some see digital innovations as social and environmental game-changers that will amplify and accelerate sustainable development and a better quality of life for everyone. New technologies would speed up the energy and transport transition, facilitate the shift to a circular economy and fair, healthy and environmentally friendly agriculture and help to reduce pressure on the natural environment and biodiversity. Others don’t believe this narrative and emphasize the many new risks posed by digitalization – threats to individual freedoms, civil rights and the deliberative conditions of democratic societies. From a sustainability perspective, digitalization with its effects on economic dynamics, consumer behavior, lifestyle, value systems and social practices is then seen as a digital catalyst (German Advisory Council on Global Change 2019) fueling environmentally harmful growth.

In the context of Berlin, the Ecornet Berlin research partnership aims to clarify the sustainability risks and potential that digital technologies or business models have for the metropolis. This is intended to contribute to the complex scientific task of investigating the sustainability effects of digitalization. The approach is focused on action: Berlin policy-makers are committed to shaping the digital transformation in Berlin to reflect environmental concerns, participation and economic development. By scientifically analyzing possible regulatory courses of action, the research network aims to support policy-makers in setting the legal and political course necessary to achieve their sustainability goals